Sunday, November 22, 2009

Okinawa Dining Out

We went out to dinner last night at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Well, I suppose it's actually a Japanese restaurant (Okinawan to be specific), but they serve their version of Chinese food. The prices are low, the portions are enormous, and the food is quite tasty.


We had to park on the roof of a nearby discount store (parking on the roof is quite popular here; think "up" instead of "out"), and I saw a nifty shirt in there. If you've ever visited, you've probably seen plenty of similar products. I don't know what this shirt is supposed to mean, but somebody, somewhere, thought it was clever!


More vending machines! Some of the drinks look pretty interesting.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Kin Sunrise

I snapped a picture on the way to work a few weeks ago, and I realized that I really liked it. This is looking ESE at about 5:15 AM. I love that you can just make out the oil pumping derricks at about "7 o'clock" under the sun.

Kin Sunrise1

It was interesting to see what my little camera would do while pointed directly into the sun.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canon Powershot SD780IS Review and Blogger Notes

It's been several weeks since I got my Canon Powershot SD780IS "Elph." Here's my take on it, and please keep in mind that I am NOT a photographer (that should be obvious when you take a quick look at my previous posts and pictures). Image above was actually swiped from (click here for it) another review.

I went downstairs to dig up the receipt for this little camera, just because I'm trying to figure out how long it has been since I've charged the battery. I charged it immediately after purchasing this little powerhouse (mid September), and it hasn't required a charging since. I've never been a big fan of devices that have a discrete battery, vice those that use common AA or AAA sources, but this one seems to be a winner. It also uses the same battery as a couple of other Canon models, so it should remain easily replaceable if it suffers some type of failure, or develops a memory.

This little point and shoot camera is a direct replacement of a very cheap model that my wife got me a year or so ago. That "El cheapo," as I like to call it, model took a licking, and it finally stopped ticking. Actually, it will still take pictures, but the internal optics failed to hold up to the environment here in Okinawa.

The SD780IS has been very easy to use, fast to power up, focuses well in AF mode, and has intuitive features that even a dummy like me can figure out. The image quality is far superior to that of my previous camera(s), and it even has the capability to take 12.1 MP shots, which can be a boon if I want to enlarge them. When I examine the raw shots on my wife's fancy big monitor, they look great! The camera produces some pretty big files, though, around 3MB per picture at a moderate setting for size and a high setting for quality.

I've been very impressed with this camera's ability to take good macro shots. I'm still experimenting, but there will undoubtedly be more pics of bugs and flowers in my future. A couple of reviews that I read elsewhere mentioned that it has a slightly smaller lens than some previous models (which can affect wide angle and telephoto shots), but this is also one of the smallest cameras that Canon makes. They packed plenty of features into it, though, including the ability to shoot HD video. With some experimentation, I quickly discovered that the audio associated with video is pretty poor (a little tinny, with little or no bass).

It produces very rich colors, even with the "auto" settings enabled, and a little tweaking for sunsets, or portraits helps a lot! I've noticed that it tries really hard to help me out when I leave it in the simple auto mode, but that can only do so much. Facing into the sun has predictable results, but still generates some interesting shots, especially over water. The face recognition feature is neat when dealing with kids! The aperture size and shutter speeds are easy to manipulate in manual mode, if you know what you're doing (I don't), and give you the capability to tailor the shot to the conditions. ISO setting can be quickly accessed as well, as can various "dumbed down" settings that accomplish the same thing (sports setting, etc).

My biggest source of pleasure with this camera is the fact that it is SO easy to keep with me, and employ in time of need. With my current profession, I have a deep appreciation for a quality product that can be put into use quickly, and efficiently. This camera indeed does that, and it does that very well. With almost little thought, I can capture quality images, and rely on this device to do it every time. Isn't that what a point-and-shoot camera should be?

My greatest source of displeasure associated with this camera actually has nothing to do with the camera itself: Blogger. I do not like what Blogger does when I upload an image. The resizing and dramatic reduction in quality are obstacles that I've not yet figured out how to overcome. I've seen numerous Wordpress themed blogs that have much better looking images on them. Mine are nowhere near what their original form looks like (even when clicking to download the larger version).

In a nutshell, I would definitely recommend this camera to someone looking for a quality point-and-shoot model that is easy to use. Fast, dependable (so far), and a producer of good images, this camera is a keeper.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sugarcane and Habu


This is one of the many sugarcane fields here on Okinawa. They are everywhere! You can find small cane fields just about anywhere on the island, from downtown Naha, to the rural northern areas. Anywhere that there's an open spot of dirt, somebody will plant a crop of some kind, and sugarcane is one of the most popular here.

The sugarcane, and other crops, are a bit of a double edged sword: They provide income and food, but they are home to one of the island's more dangerous inhabitants, the habu. Habus are a local species of viper, similar to a rattlesnake, and easily irritated. If they feel threatened, they will bite. The crops draw mice, and the mice attract the habu. Luckily, the habu's venom is only fatal to about 3% of its victims. On the other hand, bites are actually pretty common, at about 1 per 1,000 people (article here). That can make Geocaching pretty interesting.

Here's a picture of a habu:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harvest Time

I previously posted (click here) about the local farming of rice. Guess what? Time to reap the harvest!

It's still harvested by hand here, and the farmers hang it up in various locations to dry. In this picture, you can see that it is hung along the highway for a significant distance. Those railings come in handy! As usual, you can click the pic for the full size version.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Banyan Trees

Banyan trees have a remarkable root system. The above-ground trunks are great hiding spots for geocaches here!

This is a picture of a good example that is right down the road from my house. Click the picture for a full size version, and you can zoom in on the roots/trunks. Can you imagine searching that sucker for a small cache container? Welcome to my world.

Don't get me started on stone walls...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Typhoon Update

The typhoon that was threatening us is now a tropical storm, but it is quite close, and the weather has been pretty poor.

In the picture above, the island of Okinawa is circled in red. It should be past us, with improved weather, just in time to go back to work tomorrow!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Yet another rainy mess here; at least this one will not be hitting us squarely (according to forecasts). This storm has been wobbling around south of us for a few days now, and has nearly gone in circles.

I'll be taking my little hitchhiking travel bug to an event on Halloween, if the weather holds up. More pictures to come!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Everyday Items

My wife is fond of reminding me that things we see every day here are probably pretty interesting to the folks back home in the good 'ole U.S. of A. As always, you can click the pictures for the full size versions.

Here's a shot of a local mail box, the public variety, outside of a Family Mart, which is a Japanese chain of convenience store. You can even pay many of your bills at a Family Mart!

I also got a picture of the local power plant, and in the foreground, you'll notice one of the staples of Okinawan living: A vending machine. Vending machines are everywhere here. Middle of a farmer's field? Yep. Beaches? Yep. Need to grab a cold coffee, or tea? You won't have to travel very far (this one is viewed from the parking lot of Family Mart, which is open 24 hours).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Love Motel

This is one of the local "love motels." See the big gorilla on the roof? Kinda silly, right?

These establishments are very popular here in Okinawa, and they work like some of the places in the U.S. that charge by the hour. The premise is based upon something a little different here.

In Okinawa, like much of Japan, you will typically find a few generations, and many members of extended family, under one roof. There really isn't much privacy for a young married couple. This is simply the way things are, and it creates a very lucrative market for "love motels." Most couples need to get away for a couple of hours every once in a while.

This gorilla motel provides a venue for couples, and it seems to be pretty popular. You don't even have to see any people there; you can just feed your card, or Yen, into a machine and get a ticket for a room (so I'm told).

There's a geocache hidden fairly close to here, and there used to be one very close to here. I think it was part of the "Boogie Nights" series...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Forgotten Park

I stopped at this little park on my way home from work yesterday. The geocache here is listed as a difficulty of four, due to the unique container used in stage one of this multi-cache.

I wasn't able to make the find, but I walked around the park for a while anyway. The view from the top was great.

Click the pictures for the full size versions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day Off and Geocaching

I had a meritorious day off from work today, and my wife and I ventured out to do some Geocaching. We focused mostly on the Katsuren Peninsula, which is where the Katsuren Castle happens to be located. We stopped by there, and the view was a little hazy today.

We also hit a local beach that appears to be very popular with the locals, hence no cache at that location (local was napping almost on top of it!).

It was a nice day out, albeit a little windy, and we stopped at San A for a bit of shopping. I had a bowl of soba for lunch, and then we headed for home. We stopped at a cache that was the first in a series called "Outta Luck." These caches are all hidden at defunct pachinko parlors (casinos). It was a pretty easy find, and it was also my only find of the day. Too many locals at the other stops, and we had to get home before the kids made it back from school.

It was still a fun day, and I was able to snap some pictures for the owners of that little travel bug that I'm toting around. As usual, you can click the pictures for the full size versions.

Monkey in a box!

It's soba!

View of the beach from the road

Katsuren Castle

Saturday, October 3, 2009

BC Street and Shurikawa Spring

I made a stop over at "BC Street" today. BC street is infamous for being a concentrated bar/club/strip joint haven here. That's at night...During the day, there are some neat little shops, a couple of cool restaurants, and the Teruya Music Store (good spot to grab some new strings for my son's guitar).

I needed to make a stop there while my wife did some shopping at Kadena AFB's new BX. Better her than me! I also stopped at a geocache called "Spring Cleaning." It's located near the Shurikawa Spring, and there were just too many locals there today. I saw the cache container, but just couldn't pull it out and mess with it at the time. This one will have to be an early morning, or maybe a night visit.

In other news, I have a little travel bug that came all the way from Arizona. Thanks Erika Jean!

I took a few pictures of the trackable item to share with the owners.

    The spring

    On BC Street

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Rice Is Growing!

You can definitely tell from these photos that the rice I mentioned in a previous post is growing like crazy. It won't be long until it's drying along the sides of the roads, hung in bunches on handrails and the like.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Front Door Treasures

While out on my front porch today, I saw a neat looking moth. My wife HATES moths, but I think they're neat. I marvel at the transformation that they make from the various grubs and such that we grow to hate (ever seen what a tomato worm turns into?).

My wife said that this moth looks like a jet fighter. I had to admit that he/she is very aerodynamic looking.

The other picture is of our Shisa dog. We have two of them in front of our door, as is the custom here in Okinawa. While we might get the occasional gecko in our house, the Shisa keep the evil spirits out!

As always, you can click on the photos for the full size versions. That moth is pretty neat looking up close.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's not always about the tupperware

I haven't been doing much geocaching lately. I haven't been doing much besides working, and getting ready for school (my next term starts Monday).

I did, however, stop and look for a cache on my way home from work on Thursday afternoon. I have often eyed the local rice paddies with a detached interest, and have marveled at the rice being dried on the roadside guard rails just like it has been done for many years.

The cache I stopped at was intended to bring the cacher to a local rice paddie so that we can watch rice being grown, and harvested, the way it has always been done. This is probably a unique experience, since nobody in The States is going to see rice being harvested by hand.

A local farmer was working right next to ground zero, so I was unable to search properly for the cache container. I did snap a couple of photos of the rice paddies. From the smell of things, I suspect that the rice has been well fertilized too!

Overall, it was a neat little spot, and I'm glad I stopped there. I'll be back there again to grab the cache, probably on an early morning when Farmer Yoshi is still asleep!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Trip To the Beach

My mom jokingly asked me what I thought would happen if I planned a family trip to the beach. I responded with, "We'll probably have a typhoon!" Laughing ensued...

Who's laughing now? I'm just that lucky!

Back In The Land of Strangeness

I went out and grabbed a couple of geocaches with my daughter on Saturday morning, and she demonstrated that she's very good at pointing out things here in Okinawa that are strange, funny, or just a little out of place.

I'm not sure what that depiction of the moon landing is supposed to be doing, but it looks pretty permanent...

Monday, August 3, 2009


Thanks Erika!

I was recently introduced to the hobby of postcrossing. It's a neat little website where you can sign up and get interesting postcards from all around the world. Like I need another hobby, right?

Sounds boring? Maybe, but it's neat to get little glimpses of other nations in your mailbox.

Here's a few that I've recieved:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All Good Things Must Come To an End

I had a wonderful time visiting family in California, and it seemed like it was over in a flash. We were on the go most of the time, and we spent as much time as we could with family. We did take two days on our own to go to Knott's Berry Farm (see my previous post about their crummy hotel by clicking here), but that was about it.

I even got to meet a friend of mine, and his family, for an afternoon of mall shopping and lunch. Gary, and his family, were great, and we had a wonderful time with them.

Alas, I didn't get to do as much geocaching as I would have liked, but there just didn't seem to be enough time. Three weeks doesn't last as long as you might think when you have family that you haven't seen in years (and grandkids that they haven't seen).

I did see a really neat vending machine on the way back to Okinawa; it's full of electronics and video games. Who knew they had vending machines in airports that sell ipods? Are cars next?

Ipod vending machine?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Palm Springs Air Museum

My trip to California is going well, but it's really flying by (no pun intended). I thought three weeks would be a pretty long visit, but it's not as long of a stay as I thought it would be.

Yesterday, my dad and I went to the Palm Springs Air Museum. They have a very impressive collection of vintage aircraft, most of which are WWII era birds. Almost all of them are in flying condition!

I've always had a fascination with aircraft, particularly the older war planes. I think my favorite plane at the museum was the F-4U Corsair, but it's a tough choice between that, and the P-40 Warhawk that was parked outside.

If you're ever in the Palm Springs area, be sure to stop in at the museum. It's co-located with the airport (for obvious reasons), and easy to get to.

Here's a couple more photos from my visit:

Monday, July 20, 2009

California Caching Part II

After our family trip to Knott's Berry Farm, we headed toward Mountain Home Village to visit with my Father In Law and his wife. We've had a great time here, as the surroundings are beautiful, and we all get along very well.

He and I spent yesterday afternoon doing some geocaching along Highway 38 near Forest Falls, the route to Angeles Oaks, an old dirt road that leads to 7 Oaks, and back to Mountain Home Village. We found ten caches, one of which had been muggled. The contents of the geocache were scattered about the area. When you find happy meal toys, balloons, and a geocaching signature coin laying on the ground near the cache coordinates, it's a safe bet that it has been muggled.

We had a great time, and the scenery was nice. It was warm yesterday, 101 in Mountain Home Village, but a bit cooler up in 7 Oaks.

Scene of the crime:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Knott's Berry Farm Hotel Is a Ripoff

Today we drove in to Buena Park to visit Knott's Berry Farm, and we had a room reserved at the hotel of the same name. It's supposed to be their "resort" hotel. It's not much of a resort, and it's a complete ripoff. For the price they charge for the room, I would expect a pretty nice room. The room is kind of shabby. The Best Western we stayed at a few days ago was head and shoulders above this place.

There's not even wireless internet in the room. Well, there is, but you have to pay ten bucks a day to access it. You can even get a little bottle of water for three bucks. Three bucks for water, after paying an outrageous rate for this dumpy little room with peeling wallpaper and stained tile? Ripoff!

Don't ever stay at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel. I regret the decision to do so, and would never recommend this place to anyone (unless I thoroughly disliked them).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

California Caching Part 1

I've made it safely from Okinawa to California, and have had a couple of days to visit with some family. It was a long few flights, and we're still stuck on Okinawa time.

I made a day trip up to 29 Palms, in order to take care of some business on the Marine Corps base. I made a couple of stops along Highway 62 to grab a couple of geocaches, and then spent a couple of hours in Yucca Valley and 29 Palms.

We had lunch at Santana's, one of our favorite little Mexican fast food places, and then I dropped my wife off at Wally World for a couple of hours. Caching time! I was able to find 16 caches yesterday, all which were in either Yucca Valley, or 29 Palms.

Geocaches sure are easy to find when they're not surrounded by jungle! As an aside, it became abundantly clear how spoiled I am in Okinawa with geocoins and travel bugs. Out of the 16 caches, none of them contained any trackable items. I dropped off a geocoin that I picked up in Japan, and since its goal was to make it back to California, I was able to help it along its way.

It was a fun day of caching, and the dry desert heat was a nice change of pace from the cumbersome humidity of Okinawa. Here's some pictures from the day:

Yucca Valley near the airport

Wife sitting in the air conditioning with Mt San Jacinto in view

One of the many murals in 29 Palms

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fire Causes Geocaching Website Outage

An early morning fire at Fisher Plaza has caused a longer than anticipated power outage that is keeping the Geocaching website offline.

Jeremy Irish, the co founder of Groundspeak, the company that owns the website, writes about this on his blog (click here).

I hope they get it fixed soon, as many thousands of people rely on the functionality of the website.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roadside Stops

I stopped at this little spot on my way home from work today-- No real reason for it, I just wanted to stop and walk around for a few minutes. I quickly found myself wishing I had my swim trunks with me. It was a nice day today, albeit hot and humid. These are the sort of things that I will dearly miss when I leave this island for good.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tropical Storm

One of the unique (in comparison to the U.S.) features of Okinawa is the frequency with which we are affected by tropical storms, and even typhoons. For those of you that are not quite sure, typhoons are identical to hurricanes, but are simply referred to as typhoons by virture of where they originate.

We are currently in typhoon "season" here, and our first tropical storm is churning around south of us. In the screen shot, you can see my little island circled in red, with the tropical fun circled in yellow. The storm is forecasted to head NNE to NE over the next few days, so we will get even more rain than we already are, with some increased winds thrown in for fun.

I moved from a 9th floor apartment to my current ground level house about a year or so ago, and we haven't had a really strong typhoon come through since then. The last time we had a real doozy, I had a nice view of the carnage from my 9th floor balcony, and there was no yard for me to clean up. Being at ground level will undoubtedly increase the chances of flooding in our home, since Okinawans LOVE to put as many sliding glass doors in their buildings as they can possibly fit. We enjoy having the light and the view, but it is worrisome with powerful storms on the horizon.

I will also be heading to the continental U.S. on a three week trip in July, so I wonder how our little house will fare while we are away. I'm sure I'll be trying to keep an "eye" on the weather via the internet during our trip, but there won't be much that I can do to clean up any damage or debris after a typhoon. Luckily, we're on good terms with our very nice neighbors, and they have agreed to keep up the yard while we're gone.

Needless to say, extremes in the weather can certainly have an adverse effect on outdoor activities. Today is the nicest day we've had in a couple of weeks, but being Father's Day, I'll probably be spending most of it at home with family.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It has been raining pretty steadily here for three days now. There's no break forecasted for the immediate future.

This puts a damper on outdoor activities, like Geocaching. Sure; I could still go, and run around getting soaked to the bone. I do enough of that at work, thank you.

Since I've come down with some kind of crud, I think I'll just stay home today and lay around the house.